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Conspecific density plays a pivotal role in shaping sapling community in highly fragmented subtropical forests

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Marion PfeiferORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by John Wiley and Sons Inc, 2022.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


© 2022 Ecological Society of Australia.Tropical and subtropical regions shelter high levels of biodiversity. A combination of biological, environmental and anthropogenic factors influences tree community diversity and composition. Here, we use data from the IFFSC project to test the effect of conspecific and heterospecific density dependence, canopy cover and distance to edge on saplings populations of 229 woody species in 159 plots distributed across three forest types in Southern Brazil. All plots were measured twice with a standardized time interval of 5 years. We fitted one ordinary least square regression model to each species to test the strength of each predictor on the species' population growth rate, and one global mixed effect model including forest type, ecological group and the interaction between distance to edge and conspecific density to test their impact in the overall trend of the species. Our analysis provided circumstantial evidence that conspecific density dependence is shaping diversity of forest fragments. This mechanism was present for 75.5% of the species, while heterospecific density affected 10% of the species. Canopy cover affected the population dynamics of 9.2% of the species and distance to edge affected 7.4% of the species. Forest type had a significant effect in the global model, suggesting that population dynamics differ between different forest formations. Ecological group was not significant in the global model suggesting that the mechanism affects species similarly despite their ecological group. The interaction between distance to edge and conspecific density was significant in the global model, suggesting that this mechanism differs between interior and edge of fragments. This work represents one of the few large-scale analyses of conspecific density dependence in fragmented secondary forests. Our results show that, once the forest is stablished, conspecific density dependence is crucial in sapling population dynamics, despite high levels of fragmentation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): da Silva DA, Pfeifer M, Vibrans AC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Austral Ecology

Year: 2022

Volume: 47

Issue: 8

Pages: 1609-1621

Print publication date: 01/12/2022

Online publication date: 17/10/2022

Acceptance date: 30/09/2022

Date deposited: 12/12/2022

ISSN (print): 1442-9985

ISSN (electronic): 1442-9993

Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Inc


DOI: 10.1111/aec.13249

ePrints DOI: 10.57711/hfty-jd42


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